Sunday, February 2, 2020

Winter Cabin Life at Silent Lake Provincial Park

We haven't seen much winter this year so when the snow finally started to fly mid-January we decided we should head north for a couple of days and take in as much winter as we could before it all disappeared. We discovered that Silent Lake Provincial Park had some cabins available, so we booked one and started getting ready. While booking the cabin we noticed that there is no lack of availability during the week. If you can get away during the week this would be a great option.

We booked cabin 206, somewhat randomly and I think it turned out to best cabin for us. It was on the lake side of the road, which meant we could walk out the front door to the lake. The cabins on either side of us were empty for our stay. But most importantly, we were able to turn the hill down to the lake into a sledding hill. I don't think any of the other cabins had such a nice sledding hill right out the door. When you have kids your criteria for a successful location can be quite different.

Cabin 206
We were only able to spend two nights so we made good use of our time. Upon our arrival we notice that mother nature had set the perfect scene for us. The temperature was below freezing, but not by much; the trees were covered in snow, from a storm the previous weekend; and the sun was setting. We unloaded our belongings, had something to eat then headed outside. We roasted some marshmallows then made our way to lake to get a good view of the night sky. The night sky was absolutely stunning. One of our daughters lay on the frozen lake just taking it all in. We talked about how the sky might have looked different thousands of years ago and how it might look different thousands of years from now. We also talked about how vast the universe was and pondered questions such as: what if there are other universes out there? It was certainly the highlight of the day.

The next morning we headed out on the ski trail. We didn't really pay much attention to the map before we left. We figured we would ski until our six year old got tired, then turn around. That's what we had done last time we were here. We left from point A and headed towards point B. There's a steep uphill climb just before B. I was worried that our daughter would get tired or frustrated after climbing the hill then she'd have to walk down the hill and ski back. We decided that Sarah and the girls would turn around at the hill and ski back to the cabin. Our son and I would continue on and do the 5 km red trail. We all had a great ski and met back at the cabin for lunch. While we were out on the trail we realized that all of us would be able to complete the 2.5 km green trail. This would make a great trip for tomorrow.

Some of the Ski Trails

Looking Across the Lake

And We're Off

Stream Flowing Out of Silent Lake

One Way

So Much Snow

All Covered in White
After lunch the plan was to do some ice fishing. We hadn't been ice fishing yet this year since it has been so warm, so we were looking forward to getting out there. Our son went to sort through the fishing gear while Sarah and I cleaned up after lunch. After a short period of time he came in asking where the fishing rods were. When he told me they weren't with all the other ice fishing gear, I realized that they were in the garage at home. Oh well. We dumped all the gear out of the sled and spent a good part of the afternoon sledding down the hill.

Going Down 

Who's Steering This Thing?

Headed for the Jump!
After a bit of sledding I put the skis back on and did the 10 km yellow trail. It was very picturesque The warm-up hut (located at point F) would be a good spot to stop for lunch some day.

Small, Frozen Body of Water

Warm-Up Cabin

When I got back to the cabin we started thinking about dinner. The plan was to BBQ some sausages, but it was so nice out that we all wanted to just be outside. We decided to cook our sausages over the fire instead.

Tending the Fire

Checking on The Sausages

The next morning we packed up (checkout time is 11:00), vacated the cabin and headed out for a ski. We brought a lunch with us so that we could eat on the way. The plan was to ski the 2.5 km loop, stopping about midway for lunch. 

Heading Up the Big Hill

Improvised Picnic Table
When we finished the loop our six year old said "Let's do it again!". We were all shocked that she wanted to go again, but we were all happy to oblige. We had the rest of our lunch by the lake then proceeded to complete the 2.5 km loop again. She was so much better the second time around. She even wanted to go a third time, but we weren't sure we had time (or that she would have the energy). I guess next time we'll have to do the 5 km loop, possibly with an additional 2.5 km loop.

We had a great time at Silent Lake. It was so nice to get a taste of winter. The cabins are a great option. They're very spacious. They can sleep 5 and come equipped with a microwave, fridge, kettle, a small counter with kitchen cupboards and shelves, a dinning table and a BBQ outside. The cabins are very similar to the one we stayed in at Arrowhead. The big difference is that the enclosed porch was heated at Silent Lake and it had an amazing collapsible drying rack. The drying rack was a great place to put hats and mitts to dry. I think I want one of these for home!

Collapsible Drying Rack

Collapsed Drying Rack
If you're looking for somewhere to go for a winter getaway, Silent Lake is a great option. They have 34 km of ski trails, 3.5 km of dedicated snowshoe trails (though you could snowshoe on the lake or on any of the unplowed park roads) and ice fishing (hand powered augers only). We will certainly be back, hopefully with our of our fishing gear.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Kawartha Highlands: Anstruther - Serpentine - Rathbun Loop

We decided to explore the north-east corner of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park since we have never been to that section of the park. One of the things I like best about this park is that it is so close to home (about an hour and forty minutes) and it feels a lot like the more northern parks. Our goal was to leisurely do the Anstruther to Serpetine to Rathbun loop. We planned on five days so that we could take our time and enjoy the sites.

Day 1
We put in at the Anstruther Lake Access Point. It was very windy when we got there, and as you might have guessed the wind was blowing directly in our faces, which made fro a bit of a tricky launch. Once we were on the water things were great. The kids all did an amazing job of paddling in such a strong wind. They really dug in when we needed them to. I'm so impressed with their growth as paddlers over the years (Our six year old paddles like a veteran paddler). Since we were battling a strong head wind there was no time for pictures.

As we neared the first portage of the day, into Rathbun Lake, we spotted a bald eagle flying overhead. I find these birds absolutely majestic and am happy to see that they are making a come back. We got to the portage, unloaded and sorted out who was taking what on the portage. We blasted through the portage then when back to check out the waterfall. I love that our kids are so excited to see and explore waterfalls.

Climbing the Waterfall

Posing(?) at the Waterfall 

More Waterfall Climbing
We spent longer than we should have exploring the waterfall, but the kids were having a great time. We had lunch at the end of the portage and watched the streams of canoes making their way out of the park (it was Sunday afternoon).

The trip across Rathbun was quick and uneventful but the portage into Copper Lake was a little busy when we got there. Sarah was able to land her boat and get going on the portage. Shortly after she left a couple were putting their boat into the water, followed by a trio in a different canoe. Our older daughter and I waited on the water until the portage was clear. This portage also had a beautiful waterfall. We didn't stop, we just admired it in passing since it was getting late and we were getting tired. The portages for the day were short, but they were both steep uphills. From Anstruther Lake to Copper the elevation gain is about 45 m, over about 600 m. The Highlands part of the park name isn't just a cute name to invoke visions of beauty. They're called Highlands for good reason.

Once on Copper Lake we paddled to our site (235).

Copper Lake
The site was nice but the swimming wasn't great. The water was a bit swampy. That didn't stop us though. We found a path through the lily pads and swam out to some cleaner water. It was a hot day and were were all ready for a swim.

It's Amazing How Much Cooking the Kids Want to do When Fire is Involved

The Wind Finally Died Down
As we explored our site we were amazed by quantity and size of the blueberries. They were big, bright blue and they seemed to be everywhere. Blueberries would become a common site on the trip. We couldn't get over how many there were everywhere we went.

Day 2
Our goal for the second day was to get to Serpentine Lake. We had booked the island site (221) and were looking forward to a couple of days there. Our older daughter was convinced that we should take the short route via the 200m portage into Serpentine. The rest of us really wanted to go the long way through the marsh, into Anderson Lake the across the 610m portage into Serpentine.

As we were preparing to leave it started to rain. We found our rain coats and setup a tarp so that we could finish packing up. We waited a few minutes for the rain to stop. It slowed to a very light drizzle so we headed out and as it turns out it didn't take long for it to stop raining. We made our way to the marsh leading into Anderson Lake. It didn't look like this root was very well traveled. It was a real challenge trying to determine which way to go and there was some tough slugging in some sections as we maneuvered through the mud, grass, etc.
This Might be the Right Way!
After much meandering we made it to Anderson Lake. It's a small lake with only two campsites on it. I imagine it's a very peaceful lake to stay on. We didn't see anyone else while we were there. We found the portage easily, but it was a bit of a challenge to get to.
Almost at the Portage
 There was a shallow muddy path leading to the portage. Most of us ended up with wet feet getting to solid ground.
End of the Line
The portage was wet, as a result of the rain and our younger daughter slipped going up a steep rock. She was frustrated about not being able to make it up the rock but was unhurt. We spent a short time regrouping (did I mention there were lots of mosquitoes and deer flies?) and everyone was on their way again. Unfortunately, there was no relief from the bugs at the other end of the portage since it was a bit marshy there as well. We got on the water and paddled to a more open part of the lake to get away from the bugs then had a snack. Everyone was in good spirits as we paddled to our site. It was still overcast but the temperature was rising. We made it to the island and setup camp. As we did so the sun came out and invited us for a swim. The water was nice. Our six year old daughter decided that she wanted to swim to the mainland. She didn't tell anyone this was her plan, she just started swimming. As we tried to get her to swim back towards the island we realized what she was up to, so we all swam to the nearest shore (a rocky point). It was a picture perfect afternoon and evening.

We were treated a beautiful sunset and went to bed shortly there after.

Incredible Sunset
Day 3
This was a rest day for us. We woke up and leisurely cooked pancakes over the fire. After breakfast we headed off to explore. Our son and I wanted to explore the creek near the 200 m portage. We paddled a short distance and discovered it was all dried up. It was an interesting creek because it looked like it had cut right through the rock, creating rock walls on both sides of us.

Time to Explore on Foot 
All Dried Up

I Guess This is Why There is a Portage
After we finished exploring the creek we went to catch up to the others. They were going to paddle over to a small island not far from the one we were staying on, check it out and possibly go for a swim. It was warming up nicely so we all spent some time in the water cooling off.

Approaching the Tiny Island

Jumping In!
Our son and I headed back to our site to pick up our fishing gear to see if we could catch something for lunch. We didn't get any bites so we headed back for lunch. We spent much of the afternoon hanging around the site, reading, improving our knot tying skills and just generally being lazy. We did some more fishing late in the afternoon and caught a couple of small fish. We decided it would be best to let them grow some more so we put them back.

Knot Tying in the Hammock (Along With Some Silliness)

Leave it to the 6 Year Old to Turn a Hammock Into a Swing

Great Spot for Story Time

Another Great Spot for Reading
 After dinner and getting everything cleaned up, I headed out for a paddle while the others chose to do some more reading. There were fish jumping everywhere. It was amazing. On my way back I spotted a bald eagle that flew right past the island we were staying on. I wasn't the only one who spotted it. The two loons on the lake (one on either end) were giving out their warning calls.

Another Great Sunset
Day 4
Today wasn't meant to be a long day distance wise. The plan was to paddle to the portage from Serpentine to North Rathbun, do the portage, paddle across North Rathbun, down the creek and then do the short portage into Rathbun.

Headed for the Portage
 The only hiccup with the plan for the day might be the 1415m portage from Serpentine into North Rathbun. This would be the longest portage we've done (other than on day trips when we didn't have much stuff). It started with a very steep uphill section and finished with a long gradual downhill. I got everyone setup to go, then set them on their way and then carried the rest of our stuff along the first 150m of the trail to get to the top of the hill. I eventually caught up to our older daughter who had stopped (about 600 m from the end) to battle some of the bugs that had been following her. I didn't meet the other kids until the end of the portage. They had no troubles at all (other than the bugs, but there was a strong breeze at the end of the portage that was helping). Sarah and I went back for the rest of the stuff and finished in good time. It felt good to get on the water again. We had lunch in the canoes, letting the wind blow us where it wanted to. We took some time to explore the marshy area between campsites 211 and 212 but discovered that the water was quite shallow and muddy. We backed out quickly for fear of getting stuck. We also spent a few minutes looking for the remains of a tramway in the area, but we had no luck locating them. North Rathbun is a beautiful lake (our older daughter pointed out that I said that about most of the lakes that we visited).

The rest of the journey was easy and uneventful. It was getting very hot again and we were all looking forward to cooling off in the lake. The water was so refreshing. 

After swimming we did some fishing. We had a few bites but didn't catch anything until we tried again later in the evening. Again all the fish we caught were small.

Site 202 From the Water

Another Incredible Sunset
Day 5
We had a slow start to the day. We slept in and we were in no hurry to get going. While we packed up we were visited by the wardens again. This was the third time in five days our permit was checked. We figure that's more than all other trips combined. It's great to see such a strong presence in the park.

The paddle to the portage into Anstruther was easy as was the portage. Our youngest daughter wanted to visit the waterfall again so we did that then got on the water. We had lunch on the water and made our way back to the access point.

We had an incredible five days out in the wilderness. It's so nice to be able to spend so much quality time as a family exploring and challenging ourselves. The only thing left to do was to bask in our bug bites, sore muscles and long lasting memories. 

Until next time Kawartha Highlands!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Family Day Weekend In Algonquin

I'm pretty sure that Family Day is now my favourite holiday of the year. It's not commercialized (yet) and there's no reason to do anything but spend time with the family. This year I decided to take the Thursday and Friday before the weekend off so that we could have a five day winter camping trip in Algonquin Park.

We were all loaded up and ready to go Thursday morning and as we went to leave we discovered that our van would not start. It turns out the starter motor needed to be replaced. Eventually, we got it started but thought we should get it fixed before heading out. Fortunately, the shop would be able to fix it that day but not until 2:00 in the afternoon. This wouldn't leave us enough time to get to the park and setup before the sun went down. The kids were bummed that we would miss a day of camping. While we waited to have the van fixed we tossed around the idea of spending the night closer to the park so that we could be there early in the morning. At some point one of us suggested that we should see if there was a yurt available in the park. With a yurt we'd be able to arrive in the dark, get our sleeping bags out, spend the night then setup our tent in the morning. Sure enough there were a couple of yurts available. We booked one and headed for the park as soon as the van was ready.

We arrived around 8:30 after stopping at Just For the Halibut in Bancroft for a Valentine's Day dinner. I can't remember the last time we went out for dinner on Valentine's Day. Within two minutes of our arrival at the yurt the warden, Harvey, stopped by to make sure we had everything we needed. What great service.

We had an uneventful night in the yurt. Friday morning we setup our tent and vacated the yurt. The kids had a blast playing in the snow. We haven't had much snow at home this winter so to experience close to a metre on the ground was so much fun.

All Set Up!

Perched in a Tree

After lunch we decided to go snowshoeing. There had been about 15 cm of fresh snow overnight, which would make for some fun snowshoeing. We couldn't get over how deep the snow was. Even in our snowshoes, stepping off the hard packed trail resulted in us sinking into the snow up to our knees. We had found winter and couldn't be more excited.

Hard Work

Having a Good Time

Such Beauty
Break Time
After snowshoeing the kids wanted to head to the rink to do some skating. We stayed there for the rest of the afternoon. I'm always amazed at how much better they get at skating. I guess it's no surprise given how much time they spend on the ice.

Saturday we decided to head to the Leaf Lake Ski Trail. Our goal was to ski the Jack Rabbit Loop (5 km) and have lunch at Dee's Cabin. I figured we'd all be able to make it, except for maybe our five year old. Given that the trail was one way, we really didn't have a choice. We did all eventually make it to the cabin where we had a nice lunch while we chatted with the other visitors. We had a very enjoyable ski back to the parking lot. The trail was absolutely beautiful. The trees were all covered with snow and the forest was gorgeous. The skiing was the highlight of the trip for me.

After our a great ski we headed back to the campground. I wanted to wander around the campground to check out the Winter in the Wild demonstrations but the kids were keen to play in the snow. They played in the snow while we took care of some chores.

Sunday morning our son and I went back to the ski trails and this time we skied the Leaf Lake Loop. It was a much faster ski with just the two of us. It was just as beautiful though.

Beautiful Day

All Alone  

Dee's Cabin

Going Down
After our ski we had lunch then we headed for the rink, where we would spend the rest of the afternoon.

Having a Great Time

Hold On Tight

Clean Up Time
We had planned to leave early(ish) on Monday. Once at home we would need to unpack and I had a bunch of work to do. We pack up our things in the tent. The kids headed for the rink and skated while Sarah and I took down the tent and got the  vehicles loaded up. They had a great time with the rink mostly to themselves.  Once Sarah and I finished packing up We headed to the rink and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine while the kids skated. We were in no rush at all! We slowly had lunch and cleaned up. Finally at about 2:30 we were ready to leave.

We had an amazing trip. It was nice to find winter. Trips like this always make me think that we should move further north so we can experience winter more regularly.